Monday's FAITH Focus

I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicaly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus.
Ephesians 20:20 (NRSV)

Paul's tearful meeting with the Ephesian Elders in Acts 20 is one of the most beautiful encounters in the entire books of Acts. What he says in verse 20 is helpful guidance for leaders in the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy. Paul was helpful, he proclaimed the message of Christ, and he discipled Christians. His ministry was public, private, and passionate.

Yesterday we participated in public ministry - tonight we go house to house. Let's follow Paul's example as we, "shepherd the church of God..."(v.28).

Summer Fun

Preaching Preview for Sunday July 30th

Text: Joshua 1:1-9
Title: Missio Dei IV

In his book "The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within" Erwin Raphael McManus called the church to shed civilized religion for Barbarian faith. Why? "Because Jesus did not suffer and die so that we could build for ourselves havens, but so that we might expand the kindgom of His love. Because invisible kingdoms are at war for the hearts and lives of every human being who walks on the face of the earth. And times of war require barbarians who are willing to risk life itself for the freedom of others."

This Sunday we will explore the experience of a "Barbarian" named Joshua. He - fought to lead people into the promised land, was strong, was positive, and lived in the Word of God. He cut a warrior path for us to follow.

A passage to ponder - "You, therefore, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 2:1-3 HCSB).

Sunday Night: We will continue our teaching series on I and II Thessalonians. The text will be I Thess. 4:1-12

Word/Spirit Bibliography

I had a great conversation with Buster Wilson at Youth Night. Buster is the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Ecru, MS. His daughter Whitney was the young woman that spoke. We talked, in part, about books written from an "empowered-evangelical" or "renewal Baptist" perspective. These categories are not hard and defined but suggest evangelicals open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the life of the church. Here is a short list of writers I have read in the last couple of years.

1. Lon Allison and Mark Anderson - Going Public with the Gospel: Reviving Evangelistic Proclamation (IVP).

2. Doug Banister - Sacred Quest and The Word and Power Church (both with Zondervan).

3. Roc Bottomly (no kidding) - The Promised Power: Experiencing the Union of Word and Spirit (NAVPRESS).

4. Greg Boyd (an open theist but interesting writer) - God at War and Seeing is Believing (IVP and Baker).

5. Jack Deere - Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, Surprised by the Voice of God, and The Beginner's Guide to the Gift of Prophecy (Zondervan and Vine Books).

6. Larry D. Hart - Truth Aflame: A Balanced Theology for Evangelicals and Charismatics (this is the Word/Spirit systematic theology published by Nelson, Grudem's systematic theology can also be considered Word/Spirit).

7. Jack Hayford - The Beauty of Spiritual Language (a classical Pentecostal but a bridge building work on spiritual language published by Word).

8. Bill Hull - Straight Talk on Spiritual Power: Experiencing the Fullness of God in the Church (Baker).

9. R.T. Kendall - Total Forgiveness, The Thorn in the Flesh, Just Say Thanks, The Anointing (Charisma and Nelson).

10. Craig S. Keener - Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today (Baker).

11. Calvin Miller - Loving God Up Close: Rekindling Your Relationship with the Holy Spirit and Miracles and Wonders: How God Changes His Natural Laws to Benefit You (Warner).

12. Ron Phillips - Awakened by the Spirit: Reclaiming the Forgotten Gift of God and Vanquishing the Enemy (Nelson and Pathway).

13. Clark Pinnock (an open theist but interesting writer) - Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (IVP).

14. Sam Storms - The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts, Pleasures Evermore, and The Singing God (Vine Books, NAVPRESS, and Creation House).

15. John White - When the Spirit Comes With Power: Signs and Wonders Among God's People (IVP).

Happy reading. If you know of others please comment.

Wednesday's Word

Our scripture focus for this week's mid-week service will be Acts 11. We'll see God working in a powerful way in the young church. One reason for this was the character of the Christian leader Barnabas. The example of Barnabas is one we all hope to follow. Luke described him as, "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith."

Have you known another man or woman that this describes?

How have they impacted your life for Christ?

My Faith Has Found a Resting Place

We sang a wonderful old hymn in church last night. I love the words-

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Everliving One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

The preaching of the gospel should bind us together. It holds out hope for peace and offers us a true resting place. Let's purpose to make the main thing - the main thing. See ya'll at F.A.I.T.H tonight.

Molly Katherine's Toofies

Wide is His Love and Grace

Meredith and I went with a group from our church to the Mississippi Baptist Youth Night. It was an amazing event. Steve Fee led the worship. Dr. David Platt gave a powerful call to live a gospel centered life. He told a number of inspiring stories about Asian Christians and the powerful way the Holy Spirit is at work in their ministries. Whitney Wilson also spoke. She is a former speakers tournament contestant and student at M.C. She preached the stars down calling us to a life of radical faith. In a time when many in the SBC are focusing on non-essentials the Youth Night was a refreshing experience. It was an enviroment where Jesus was honored and our sons AND daughters were given an opportunity to prophesy in His name. It may have been more biblical than Baptist but it sure was fun. Thanks to the planning committee for a job well done.


Molly Katherine is getting teeth and we are expecting #2. Keep us in your prayers.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

Youth Weeks a hit in relocated setting
Youth Weeks have always been well attended, quality events. I feared the future of Youth Week following Katrina and the damage to G.B.A. It seems clear that moving the event to the Jackson area has not hindered the program. Good work ya'll.

Get ready, stay ready
William Perkins' editorial was a very sane treatment of events in the Middle East and eschatology. I liked his line, "Don't try to divine the future; don't even give a worry to the future. Just be ready." That pretty much states my position on the issue as well.

The strangers within our gates
Martha Stockstill wrote a wonderful guest opinion on ministry to internationals. She stated again the missional Baptist ethos that has guided Mississippi Baptists for years. She also called attention to a literacy conference to be held at Crossgates Church July 27-29. If you are interested call Paula Smith @ 601.292.3336.

Jim Futral is sporting a new Lex Luthor look. He appears twenty years younger. He wrote this week about a creative pro-life project called Memorial to the Missing. This project is a breath of fresh air following the crazy nature of the anti-abortion protests in Jackson last week. These "pro-family" folks thought it a Christian witness to have children destroy a Koran and "gay" flag. I was heart broken when I saw it on the news. Jimmy Porter and Lee Yancey should be commended for their wisdom and restraint.

Analysis: The case for alcohol abstinence
The Record chose to print a piece written by Paige Patterson against, "imbibing strong drink." Classic Patterson stuff - Yada, Yada, Yada. Let's move on!

Preaching Preview for Sunday July 23rd

Title: Missio Dei III
Background Text: Exodus 3-4:17

Moses was another "sent" by God. His ministry was one of rescue and leadership. God accompanied his command to GO with LO promises. Moses experienced God's - presence("I will certainly be with you..."), provision ("So you will plunder the Egyptians"), people ("Isn't Aaron the Levite your brother?"), and power ("take this staff in your hand that you will perform the signs with").

Read the background passages. How have you seen God provide for the spreading of the gosple in these ways?

REIDing Blogs II

Steve McCoy's Missional Baptist blog is about to die. I was sad to hear the news. I will always be grateful for that blog - it introduced me to the blog world and has renewed me on many levels. I was about done with the SBC. The spiritual language issue almost clinched the deal. I googled "missional baptist" and discovered a collection of Baptist thinkers I did not know existed. From there I fumbled through and began this rather modest blog, mostly to communicate with church members and other Baptists in Mississippi. In three months I have: communicated with Alvin Reid-learing about creative evangelism, talked with Buster Wilson about a network of Renewal Baptists in Mississippi, increased CP giving in next years church budget, met many new friends, made plans to go to next years SBC, etc. Our Minsiter of Congregational life is going to Peoria, Illinois this week to lead a childrens outreach - because of this blog. I can't say enough about the positive influence blogging has had on my ministry. Thank you, Steve!

Wednesday's Word

"Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified."
Psalm 40:16 (KJV)

The scripture focus for our mid-week service will be Psalm 40. This psalm holds out hope for spiritual renewal. It points to a number of disciplines that create the space needed for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. These include: sharing your testimony, praise and worship, the Word, witnessing, and prayer. If you need a fresh touch from the Holy Spirit then these disciplines are a good place to start.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

'Katrina kids' recveive Gospel message
The Record's front page was dedicated to a wonderful summer ministry for children on the Gulf Coast. Many Mississippi Baptist congregations conducted VBS and back yard bible clubs among FEMA trailer communites. Good work ya'll.

'It will control you'
William Perkins editorial was a full throated call for prohibition. I live in Rankin County. We voted "dry" in the last election and supported NOAL. I do not drink. I won't lie and tell you I have not had a sip in my life. I have. I made a decision not to drink as many of you have. With that said, I think that the recent focus on alcohol is becoming an adventure in missing the point.
Perkin's editorial hype is staggering. He wrote, "Many Mississippians - and regrettably, some Mississippi Baptists - would agrue that the consumption of alcohol is a harmless social activity with little or no consequences, especially when used in 'moderation' (whatever that is)." I question the inability to distinguish the moderate drinking of a Presbyterian minister and the drug and alcohol abuse of death row inmate Bobby Glen Wilcher. Placing the issue in the context of the Wilcher story is over the line. It is time for Baptists on both sides of this issue to move on to something more fruitful.

Big ministry in a small town
The guest opinion was written by Russell Mord, pastor of Sturgis Baptist Church. He wrote about the upcoming evangelism efforts at the Sturgis South Motorcycle Rally. This sounds like and amazing and creative ministry. Way to go Russell! You have our prayers and support.

William Carey to formalize name change on Aug. 14
William Carey College (our college) will become a university. I hope a divinity school will one day follow!

Fresh Fire

We got out of church early enough last night for me to attent the Fresh Fire Revival at Christway Church of God. Dr. Ron Phillips was the guest preacher. Dr. Phillips is the pastor of the Central Baptist Church (Abba's House) in Hixson, TN and one of the most recognized leaders among charismatic Baptists. I have followed his ministry for a number of years and have recommended his books to others.

Dr. Phillips preached an amazing message, challenging the church to a "day by day" faith. He called the church to share the gospel and encouraged them to reach out to the "forgotten". God was powerfully at work and the modest sized church grasped a vision for all God could do in and through them. It was an awesome experience of authentic, missional Christianity.

After the service I had a chance to briefly talk with Dr. Phillips. I introduced myself as a Southern Baptist pastor. He prayed a genuine prayer for me and our church. After he prayed he joked with me saying, "I won't tell anybody I saw you here." I chuckled but the joke communicated a sad reality in Southern Baptist life. The IMB trustee issue highlighted a smallness in the SBC that is truly heartbreaking. Don't we have enough room for Reformed theology, charismatics, and moderates? We do in my church. Why not in our denomination?

The things I witnessed in that little Pentecostal revival were genuine and beautiful. I was proud that the preacher was Baptist. I hope one day that Baptists will be proud of him.

Flat World - Bright Hope

I am grateful to Alvin Reid for posting a book review of Friedman's The World is Flat. I would like to see more conversation about this "brief history of the twenty-first century". I think that the book's implications are huge for authentic Christianity. There are two issues that touch all our ministries now.

1. Collaborative Leadership
I have been watching the YearlyKos Blogger Convention on C-Span 2. The speakers were all from the political left so I did not agree with all of the content. I am more purple than red or blue. However, the discussion of linguistics and technology was amazing. One of the participants said, "This is a bottoms up phenomenon." This reminded me of a point Miroslav Volf made in his wonderful book, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. Volf said that the church was constituted from "below". Authentic Christianity has always been a collaborative reality. The flattening of the world serves this important part of Baptist polity. We have already seen this fleshed out at the SBC.

2. Open Doors
Globalism, with all its negatives, has made the world smaller. This will serve the cause of missions. It always has. In section four of the Enquiry William Carey credited the invention of the mariner's compass with opening up doors for missions. He also pointed to the role of commerce. Carey quoted Isaiah 60:9 and commented, "This seems to imply that in the time of the glorious increase of the church in the latter days, of which the whole chapter is undoubtedly a prophecy, commerce shall subserve the spread of the gospel." We must exploit these open doors for Christ without baptizing the morality of McWorld.

I think these two realities are here and are already impacting ministry. I would love to know what others have say.

REIDing Blogs

I am amazed at the positive role blogging plays in the advance of missional Christianity. I had an experience recently that illustrated this for me.

Alvin Reid of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has joined the blogging conversation. I have a good deal of respect for Professor Reid. He wrote a wonderful introduction to envangelism that I read in seminary. I refer to it again and again. Reid is passionate, open, and dedicated to the message of Jesus.

Dr. Reid reviewed Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat on his new blogsite. I just listened to the book on CD driving to Texas so I commented, "I just finished Friedman's book. Do you think that the connected and collaborative digital ecosystem written about in this book made a difference at this years SBC?" He promptly commented, "Matt: to answer your question, yes I do believe bloggers made an impact. And I believe the SBC and other bureacracies will be nudged along toward change via the new world in which we live. I started a website a few years ago intentionally because I knew youth and college students would soon be living there. As Sweet noted in Soul Tsunami, I don't carry a business card, I have a website:-)"

It is amazing to me that blogging has allowed a young pastor of a small church (me) the access to a seminary professor like Alvin Reid. It is equally amazing that this access is available to everyone. Change is here. Let's ride it toward revival!

Cathedrals of Kudzu

I recently read a Discipleship Journal interview with Eugene Peterson. He was asked about the most important spiritual discipline in his life. Without flinching he said that sabbath keeping was #1. I was blown away. We decided to take his sage advice.

Meredith and I came to Meridian, MS to spend the 4th with my family. We have been to a movie ("The Devil Wears Prada" - the wives picked), been swimming with the girls at Okatibbee Lake, cooked pork chops, ate watermellon, and wasted a lot of good time.

The grocery store and office brain waves have given way to the rolling waves of color, smell, and vision. The tight muscles in our backs are being heated by the sun. We are sleeping better. Like the book of Esther, God has gone unmentioned but has filled every warm spot of rest with His presence. We are silent before Him. He speaks Grace.

When my grandmother was a girl Baptist worship services began with the words of Habakkuk, "But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him" (2:20). Maybe we should reclaim this call to worship. A little silence and sabbath keeping is good for the soul.

Waste some time with God this week - it's a holy activity!


We finished our week of VBS at Truitt. I would like to thank all our workers for a great week. God is at work in the lives of many families in our community. We saw a number of older kids make professions of faith and I was able to talk to a number of parents. Keep these new Christians in your prayers.
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